"Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing &
Directed by Randall Miller.
Written by Randall Miller and Jody Savin. Based on the 1990
short film by Randall Miller.
Starring Robert Carlyle, Marisa Tomei, John Goodman and Mary
Release Year: 2005
Review Date: 3/29/06
Thanks to another freebie with the DC Film
Society, I went to check out a film from the 2005 Sundance Film
Festival, "Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School."
Where I could imagine a short film of the main part of this story
being quite good, the version that is three times as long isn't
nearly as engaging for long stretches and is clearly a victim of
someone believing there was more to this business than there really
I say that because the crux of the story
lies with Frank (Robert Carlyle), a bread baker that comes upon a
car accident in the middle of nowhere. The man who was driving
that now-wrecked vehicle, Steve (John Goodman), is clearly dying as
a result of his wounds, but in an effort to keep him conscious until
paramedics arrive, Frank asks Steve just what the hell he was doing
driving so fast on the highway...and, as it turns out, Steve was
trying to meet someone at a dance program that he had attended as a
child almost 40 years ago. A reunion, of sorts...but now,
Steve will not be making it, so he recommends the class to Frank and
asks Frank to try and track down the woman he lost touch with so
many years ago.
The dance sequences--featuring a large cast
of recognizable faces trying their hand at the lindy hop, the box
step and the meringue in a class setting--are funny, and just the
acting during those sequences were enough to make the film
interesting. But, writer/director Randall Miller, basing this
film on the short film he did back in '90 of the same name, gets us
too caught up with flashbacks to Steve's life as a kid, Frank's dull
routine following the death of his wife and the Frank/Steve
interaction as we watch Steve slowly fade to black. These
sequences off of the dance floor are strange--they are not well
performed as drama, they are unnecessarily repetitive (we get that
Frank is in pain from the loss of his wife, but it's the way we are
presented this pain that doesn't flow correctly) and they take the
edge off of the dancing. Save for a couple of scenes from
Frank's support group featuring other men that have lost their
wives, "Marilyn Hotchkiss'..." is almost complete shit when it
doesn't feature Mary Steenburgen (as the dance instructor), Donnie
Wahlberg and a host of others hamming it up doing the foxtrot.
Carlyle, looking like he is sleepwalking
through this part, is a decent lead normally, but in giving us a
dull Carlyle and a dull love interest played by Marisa Tomei, the
blah factor is high and they are supposed to be carrying this thing!
There are a high number of B-listers in this flick--David Paymer,
Camryn Mannheim, Sonia Braga, Ernie Hudson, and Adam Arkin, in
addition to a surprise cameo at the end of the flick--so it seems
like the script read better than it was performed or maybe
presented, because in truth, the execution is a mixed bag.
There are many good laughs sprinkled throughout but each time we are
getting on a roll, we get to watch Goodman do his best dying
severely overweight bastard, mostly to ill effect.
Since this film was first released last
winter and is just now going wide, I have the feeling that the
studio was thinking the same thing that I was when I left the
theater tonight. Classic mixed bag but worth a catch
in-between weekend shopping or eventually on DVD.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard